Unexpected Surgery in South Korea

Travel, South Korea

foreign-correspondent badge finalThis past week, I did the scariest thing in my life; I decided to have necessary surgery in South Korea. I like to think of myself as a pretty healthy person. I had never had surgery and I could count on one hand the amount of times I had been to an American hospital.

Since moving to Korea I have suffered from migraine headaches and lately cramps as well. After going to several doctors I found out I had a five-centimeter cyst growing on my ovary. If I left it in, I would continue to deal with pain and also run the risk of having the cyst attach to other organs.

So on Wednesday of last week, I went to the doctor and she booked me for surgery the following Monday. I have never been more scared in my life. I was so afraid of the anesthesia and of going under and not waking up. I couldn’t eat or sleep during the days leading up to the surgery.

At 30 years old I was not ashamed to say, I just wanted my mom. Throughout this whole process I kept saying I am so scared, I am doing this all alone, but I realized that was the furthest thing from the truth. I experienced human compassion on many levels.

Although I didn’t have anyone familiar here, I failed to realize the people I did have here. My friend Amanda whom I met eight months ago has gone to every hospital visit with me. This past week she showed me the type of person she is. She stayed as long as she could with me the night of the surgery, kept my family up to date during the surgery, and came every night on a two-hour train ride to visit me at the hospital for four hours.

Since the surgery, she has also helped with things I can’t do such as grocery shopping, cleaning, and washing my hair. My co-teacher Su Yeon took transportation back and forth to the hospital and also stayed the night of the surgery and during the day of surgery. She held my hand after surgery to comfort me. She came with the vice principal of my school to help with my discharge and take me home.

Then there was my Korean friend Catherine who I have only known for seven months but who drove two hours on her day off just to bring me lunch and to hang out.

I experienced the most compassion from the total strangers whom I met in the hospital. I was in a room with six other Korean women and their families. I want to thank those people who helped me call nurses at night, helped me pick things up when they fell, helped me refill water bottles and carried my food trays when they were too heavy for me to lift.

I want to thank the old Korean lady I met on the first day who came over and held my hand the day after surgery and covered my feet when I was cold. I want to thank the husbands who not only took care of their own wives but also helped me.

I wonder if I had had this surgery in America, if I would have seen that kind of compassion from friends and strangers? Koreans are very compassionate to strangers even if they refer to us as wagooks (foreigners). When it counts, they show what it means to be human. This was definitely my scariest experience, but it was also the most humanizing.

About Danielle Fraser

Danielle FraserDanielle Fraser is currently teaching English in South Korea. She is taking some time off from her regular profession to nurture her passions for traveling, photography and writing.

2 thoughts on “Unexpected Surgery in South Korea

  1. Avatar
    Serena
    June 17, 2014
    Reply

    You are so brave! I love that even during times of trial and tribulation, you were able to look at the bright side and appreciate the loving kindness of strangers.

  2. Avatar
    Megan
    June 16, 2014
    Reply

    My eyes brimmed with tears as I read this. I love to hear examples of kindness of the human heart. I find it’s most effective when least expected.

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